Knowing how to protect your trees from snow and ice damage is important if you live in an area with a lot of frozen precipitation.
I was starting to think winter had passed us by, but last week’s snow and wind served as a reminder that this is Maine and we can expect harsh weather for a while longer.
Spring snow storms often bring heavy, wet snow. The extra weight can break limbs, or even up root whole trees. A broom or leaf rake should be used to remove snow from branches as soon as possible. Do this gently. Push up on a branch and give a little shake rather than pulling down hard on a branch, which might cause it to snap.
Ice-covered trees are more difficult to handle. It is often best to wait for temperatures to rise and the ice to melt on its own. If the temperature is going up, rinsing an ice-coated tree with a hose can speed thawing.
Fortunately, many trees are quite resilient. Stems or branches can often be bent significantly and still rebound when the weight is removed. Give the tree time to return to form before taking drastic action. However, if limbs have been broken, it is best to prune them while the tree is still dormant. For large limbs, or limbs that can’t be reached from the ground, we recommend hiring an arborist to perform the work.
Taking steps to prevent snow and ice damage is the best way to protect your landscape. Avoid planting trees that are particularly prone to storm damage if you live in a harsh climate. Evergreens with multiple, upright leaders such as junipers can be susceptible to heavy snow. So too can deciduous trees with brittle wood such as willow, elm, poplar, and red or silver maple.
Perhaps the most important step, whether your trees are particularly susceptible or not, is proper pruning. Eliminating weak branch attachments, V shaped crotches, and multiple leaders will greatly reduce the chance of snow or ice damage. Check out our early posts covering proper pruning techniques and tree training for more information.
Winter brings many challenges. Folks from Minnesota know a thing or two about cold weather, and the University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension has put together some good information about protecting trees and shrubs from winter damage. Unfortunately, despite ours best efforts, trees sometimes suffer irreparable harm. For this reason, we will also be discussing the selection and planting of new trees in future blog posts.-Cam Gould Gould and Son Tree Service